Sense-and-Avoid Systems Developed for Heavy-Lift Drones

By Mike Ball / 23 Dec 2019

Griff Aviation Heavy-Lift drone

Griff Aviation, an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) specialist, has announced that it has partnered with engineering and design consultancy Plextek to integrate micro radars and sensors onto heavy lifting drones, enabling them to navigate in complex environments.

Griff Aviation UAVs are designed to carry payloads of up to 250kg for a wide range of applications, such as moving building equipment and materials across harsh terrain including mountainous and forested landscapes.

Plextek’s electronic-scanning (e-scan) micro radar and advanced software have been optimised for use on drones. Operating in the 60 GHz mm-waveband, the e-scan radar is capable of detecting hazards such as power lines from up to 60 metres as well as buildings, bridges, vegetation and other objects both in front of and beneath the drone, at ranges of up to 300m and with angular resolution. The system also provides day and night, all-weather sensing. Because the 60GHz band is licence-exempt in most territories, the micro radar can be freely used and is unlikely to cause interference with other equipment on board the UAV or in close proximity.

The Plextek micro radar will enable the drones to fly at a pre-defined height when integrated with the Micro Pilot flight controller. A software shim layer converts the distance and azimuth information into MAVLINK commands used by the flight controller to navigate with speed and safety.

Plextek is currently working with Griff Aviation with on-site trials in Norway ahead of putting the drones through their paces with a leading energy provider in Japan and a power line company in Australia.

“Plextek has established internationally recognised expertise in mm-wave radar over the last six years and is now applying its technology for the ‘sense and avoid’ navigation of drones and other UAVs,” said Peter Doig, Business Development Director at Plextek. “The Griff Aviation project is particularly challenging and exciting as up until now, most drones have been used for light weight payloads and heavy lift drones require very precise and reliable flight control.”

Hans Petter Forde, Technical Lead at Griff Aviation, commented: “Innovation is needed to develop heavy lifting UAVs with robust systems for navigation and sensing. Plextek’s micro radar technology is ahead of the field and is ideal to fit our needs. We believe firmly that working together, Plextek and Griff Aviation will develop a system that will set the standards for the future of UAS navigation.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact